Seniors listen to the City of Langley candidates’ closing statements. Miranda Fatur Langley Times

All-candidates meeting addresses seniors’ issues

Among the concerns were issues around homelessness, affordable senior housing and poverty.

Candidates hoping to win a seat at the Langley City council table made their case to a group of senior voters on Wednesday afternoon.

The Langley Seniors Community Action Table hosted an all-candidates meeting on Oct. 10 to address senior issues prior to the municipal election on Oct. 20.

Approximately 90 people came out to the meeting that was hosted at the Langley Seniors Resource Centre.

The Oct. 10 meeting was for City of Langley candidates to discuss senior-specific questions and concerns with older residents.

Groups of 10 people were seated around tables and were given a list of pre-written questions to discuss with the candidates.

During the question period, pairs of candidates visited each table for six minutes at a time to answer the questions that the seniors at each table chose to discuss.

For each question asked, candidates were given a 30-second time frame to answer.

Questions posed addressed issues surrounding affordable housing, poverty reduction, safety and security, transportation, health care, social inclusion and quality of life.

A question heard most often was ‘what will you do about homelessness in Langley?’

Another popular topic was possible solutions to provide seniors with more affordable housing.

During the round tables, mayoral candidates Peter Fassbender, Val van den Broek and Serena Oh discussed their solutions to solve homelessness.

Fassbender said, “we need to advocate for stronger laws and advocate for a place like Riverview (to be brought) back so we can help people that have mental health issues who are a danger to themselves. It’s a whole society issue.”

van den Broek addressed the issue of homeless seniors by saying the City needs to be careful about situations similar to the Langley Lions Housing Society, where young people are mixed into the senior population.

“You’re putting young people in and they’re feeling unsafe and insecure. We need to have diverse housing being built, co-ops and senior housing.”

Oh said her top solution for the homeless is to ‘open our hearts.’

Councillor candidate Nathan Pachal also mentioned the Lions Housing Society and said the City needs more low-income housing that is specifically for seniors.

Other council candidates discussed supportive housing options for the current homeless population.

Jack Arnold said he doesn’t want supportive housing similar to the housing placed in Surrey’s Whalley neighbourhood.

Andrew Mercier countered Arnold’s comment, saying the supportive housing in Whalley has ‘been a massive success in reducing crime and getting people off the streets.’ Mercier called supportive housing ‘cost-effective’ and said it ‘gets people off the streets.’

Paul Albrecht said there are a number of avenues to help with the housing problem.

“We don’t own land, so we can’t say ‘here’s a parcel we can do this on.’ We need partnerships in the community. We need relationships.”

Corey Doherty said the Langley United Church property on 200 Street could be a possible location for supportive housing.

Jeff Jacobs said homelessness needs to be addressed with the help of neighbouring communities.

Teri James explained homelessness involves a variety of people, so each issue needs to be disassembled and dealt with accordingly.

Gayle Martin was asked about where homeless shelters should be located.

Martin said, “We made that decision 11 years ago with the Gateway of Hope. In my opinion, it was far enough away from the downtown core. Now we’ve got apartments there and we’ve been working with them about the issues they have with homeless people.”

Dave Stingl said ‘people on the street are low-income for vastly different reasons,’ so he believes each person should be treated differently.

Mike Solyom added that homeless people need to be ‘rehabilitated’ and offered services to become more employable.

Rudy Storteboom and Bruce Kilby addressed safety concerns from the seniors.

Both agreed the City could use more bylaw enforcement officers.

Seniors also asked for solutions to reduce overall poverty in the City.

Dana Miller said the City needs council members who have ‘no fear of meeting people and knocking on doors.’ She said poverty can be reduced by being more collaborative.

Senior health care was another concern.

Rosemary Wallace called it an ‘urgent need.’

“Seniors have complex issues so I would advocate to have more clinics that address just seniors’ needs.”

The meeting finished with each candidate giving a one-minute closing speech.

Of the 19 candidates running, 17 were present.

Candidates Randy Caine and Dave Allison were absent.

Senior residents Maria Stiglich and Pauline Koch agreed the meeting helped them finalize their decisions for the election.

“I’m very passionate about a lot of issues. It was important to hear about homelessness, housing, whether people were wanting nurse practitioners. I got a lot of good information,” said Koch.

Stiglich added she came to the meeting to ensure she makes the right decision.

“I would like to see something done with the homeless people and building a facility for the mentally ill.”

The Langley Seniors Resource Centre is also hosting an all-candidates meeting on Oct. 12 from 1:30 to 3:30 for Township of Langley candidates.

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Participants discuss senior-specific questions at a City all-candidates meeting. Miranda Fatur Langley Times

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